UK-based designer Ayush Kejriwal tells why fashion rules must be broken
Do you have a positive relationship with fashion? We all, at some point or the other, have looked at ourselves in the mirror, wishing to look like someone else or for something in our appearance to change (I know we all have, you’d be lying if you said no!) Today, I want to talk about how the ruthless the world of fashion is, in cultivating a nest of mental health issues. Behind the world of extravagance, glamour and endless excitement, hides an ugly world that exacerbates a host of problems. The fact is, like it or not, we all react to and live our lives based on trends (knowingly and unknowingly).
Some people amongst us are brave and determined enough to go off the grid, but for the majority, that seems to be a herculean task. Whilst it is true that issues like education, violence, equality, education disparity, etc are causes of concern for many people, there are a lot of people who suffer from the pressure of fashion. Fashion can have a profound effect on our well-being, both positive and negative. I will focus on the negative aspect today. The macro-environment around us makes us feel inferior about ourselves, it makes us question our physical appearance and self-worth nurtures a toxic environment of constant surveillance, with no positive outcomes, and it causes anguish and unhappiness. The pressure to fit into what is considered to be trendy and acceptable is unavoidable.
Fashion is a paradigm that reduces a person to purely a residual image, it’s damaging both for the person and the observer, as it trains the mind to dehumanise. We are constantly reminded of what is wrong in our appearance, what needs to be changed, how we can look like someone else, what could make us a better version of what we are, what we can buy and instantly feel good about ourselves. Everything around us seems to be designed to make us question our being. We struggle to find our identities, as we are preoccupied with thoughts of what needs to change in us. We are coerced into wanting to look and be like ‘fashion identities’ who are presented by the media in front of us as public figures who work in high-profile public roles such as actors, model s and fashion enthusiasts. Together, this creates a toxic environment that creates a vicious culture of constant self-doubt and self-loathing. We simply follow trends because we don’t want to be left out. We want to feel accepted, desired and appreciated.
Very few amongst us have the courage to go against the grain, initiate a change, and be a trendsetter rather than a follower. Over time, early adopters start to follow the trendsetters, turning into a crowd of evangelists and quickly, a trend becomes a socially acceptable norm, waiting for everyone else to jump on board. Some feel inferior about themselves for not keeping up with the trendsetting slaves of fashion. But should you feel bad for not doing so? No! Absolutely not. Clothing is like an art form that should be appreciated and celebrated. What we choose to wear and how we present ourselves should reflect who we are as human beings and our personal taste and comfort should be the only variables that must be taken into consideration. The so-called celebrities we try to follow reflect a fashion identity that is their own.
We should try and create an identity for ourselves too. There’s nothing wrong in being inspired, and experimenting with different options to create a more dynamic appearance, but to become a slave of fashion is not healthy. Another factor that is fuelling this mental anguish is fast fashion and its consumption; the implications here are far more serious than those of the ruthless techniques used by commercial marketing. We are relentlessly bombarded with images of what’s fashionable and trendy every day. We are made to believe that if we are not in line with what’s being offered and showcased, then we’re not good enough. Every day, we see what our peers, co-workers and even strangers are wearing. There is a lot of pressure to keep up with the demands of fast fashion. The industry relies on fast fashion to create a demand, and it can be very stressful to try and keep up with this demand. Feelings like you’re out of style can be another concern that people have, which can cause anxiety or depression. When you are a different person every day, it’s easy to lose touch with yourself!
Fashion should help us express ourselves, it should empower us, and bring the best out of us. It should make us feel good about ourselves and help us appreciate art and design. Fashion should be progressive, timeless and exciting. If on the contrary, it makes us feel anxious, unhappy and unworthy, we do need to reconsider our relationship with fashion. We need to embrace ourselves and reflect who we are through our fashion identity. We need to find our lost selves in the maze of fashion, appreciate our being, caress our soul and present ourselves in a style that’s aligned with our own identity, rather than one that’s forced upon us. What I mean is, if you want to wear jeans and a T-shirt to a cocktail party rather than a black dress (cliché!), you can do that without feeling the need to stick to so-called ‘fashion rules.’ After all, rules are meant to be broken. So, let’s go ahead and break them all!
Clothes, jewellery & styling: Ayush Kejriwal | Models: Darshana Banik & Ayushi Kejriwal | Pictures: Gautham Prashad | Hair & Make-up: Mainak Das
UK-based designer Ayush Kejriwal is a columnist with Indulge, writing on various topics of fashion, challenging preconceived notions about beauty and looks